I am selectively frugal. I love cheap shopping in Kuala Lumpur! When it comes to having a fancy coffee with latte art in a hipster cafe, I do not think twice – but with certain things I can get obsessively stingy. After I realised there are wholesale baking shops I cannot bring myself to buy muffin liners or cashew nuts from the supermarket. I understand the contradiction, but at least by doing this I have saved the money somewhere else for those fancy lattes.
Now, obviously the markets are the number one stop for any savvy shopper – there is one in pretty much every neighbourhood in KL. Having said that though, the prices are not automatically cheaper. I’d like to share a few other places I like to visit once in a while to do cheap shopping in Kuala Lumpur.
I was introduced to the infamous Lucky Frozen in Pudu by the fantastic Hello KL course run by ABWM soon after I arrived to KL. The ‘shop’ is a hole in the wall and you make your order by browsing through printed price lists, submit your order to the lady behind the counter and wait for your order to be delivered by the staff. If you want your meat to be cut, they will do it for you with impressive industrial scale rotating saws. This is where many restaurants get their meat, but they also have salmon, some dairy products and frozen berries in big packages and the prices are considerably lower than in the supermarkets. There is another outlet in Segambut.
I am too lazy to make my way over to Pudu but if you eat meat, you will make great savings by embarking on this adventure. A more sophisticated option to Lucky Frozen is Unifrozen, with a layout like a normal supermarket. Here too, the meats and fish seem to be where most savings can be made.
Distributor of the Gourmessa brand, Pok Brothers in Glenmarie Industrial Park has a lot of cold cuts of the brand, but also frozen meats and a changing variety of dry goods – on my visit I picked up some Italian pasta, biscuits and specialty oils. Based on my very unscientific sample the prices were about 10-20% cheaper than at the major supermarkets.
My favourite baking shop is House of Ingredients. I go to the Bandar Sri Damansara branch and stock up on nuts, muffin tin liners and butter (can be as cheap as 5 RM per packet! Buy two and you have saved a cappuccino!). If you do serious baking, you can also find all sorts of equipment like those needed for those fancy cake decorations. I still tend to buy flour from supermarkets, the wholesale places seem to be big on four mixes and stuff filled with “flour enhancers”. If you are in need of that cappuccino at this point, you can pop into the uber cool BEAM close by.
Bake with Yen has a few outlets, including one in TTDI Market. Another large chain for baking goods that I haven’t personally yet tested is Bagus – they also offer online shopping if the locations are not convenient for you.
I like a nice glossy with my cappuccino but as I am not happy paying tens of ringgit for a bunch of ads so I tend to do targeted shopping trips to the Sunmag magazine shop at the bottom floor of the eCurve. They have a changing stock of foreign magazines that go for generally 8-10 RM each.
Amcorp Mall in PJ is famous for the quirky Sunday flea market that is more of a vintage and trinket fair. Other than that, it is home to BookXcess, the force behind the famous Big Bad Wolf book sale. If you are not after the latest titles, it’s fantastically priced and has a good selection of kids’ books, activity books and all kinds of craft sets and games. They also have an on-line shop.
Flowers and plants
I’ve already written about the flower galore in Sungai Buloh where you can find plants, pots and pretty much anything to landscape a whole city. A great place for cut flowers is the shop in Chinatown, around the corner from Peter Hoe. I know lots of people go to Floristika in Bangsar (they also sell Christmas trees and offer good early bird discounts for the customers ordering their trees in the summer). Another great cheap flower wholesale place is Floralife, around the corner from Tesco Kepong – just walk in through the shop to the cooled section in the back.
As supermarkets go, I love to shop at Ben’s but obviously that is not very frugal. I think the reason why I seem to spend double what I would do in my local grocery store is all those lovely, fancy foreign products that I can’t resist. Like my chocolate from home – for double the price! I think most other supermarkets are pretty much the same, Tesco being the cheapest of the lot – but obviously doesn’t have the same selection available. An option between Tesco and the wet market is NSK, a wholesale chain with a few outlets – that seems to beat Tesco slightly in pricing.
Beautiful mangosteen in season, 2 RM/kg from NSK.
After visiting their outlet in Selayang (next to the massive Selayang market), I think the main difference is their selection of fresh fruit and vegetables – it’s amazing! Having said that, as with the wet markets it looks like a lot of those perky and shiny vegetables come from China. I’m all for locally grown food – but I wish it was that simple! In my head the Malaysian grown vegetables are superior to those from China but I am afraid that may be wishful thinking.
Also check our post on party bag fillers, some thrifty tips there, too! Now if anyone has good tips for finding well priced wine, would love to hear those!